MANATEE -- A grandmother of three was very excited when she walked in to a Bradenton Amscot to discover an event giving away bicycle helmets.
"It's so nice that you guys are doing this, thank you," she told Manatee County Sheriff's deputies assisting with the giveaway.
Barbara Inman picked up helmets for all the children in her family, making sure even to pick up two for her nephews who visit often.
"I love safety," Inman said. "This is perfect to keep my babies safe."
Inman said she likes to stay caught up on the latest safety information and equipment available for her family.
"They all have safety gear, but now they have new gear that is up-to-date," Inman said.
Dozens of children and their families came out to a Bradenton Amscot store Sat
urday morning and received free bicycle helmets.
The annual event took place at Amscot Financial Services, 3611 1st St. E. in Bradenton, thanks to a special partnership between Amscot, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and the Palmetto Police Department. The event is held as part of continuous effort by both law enforcement agencies to emphasize traffic safety and encourage Manatee County's youngest citizens to stay safe.
Children who attended were excited and received a warm reception.
"It puts a smile on their face, and it's good for safety," Deputy Johnny Jones said.
Jones, a school resource officer at Horizons Academy, along with others from the the sheriff's office were at the Amsot location helping to give away the helmets, making sure each child got the proper size and color of his or her choosing.
Lt. John Murrell, supervisor of MSO school resource officers, helped organize the event, which he says is about putting kids' safety first. According to the most recent data available, Murrell said there are about 400 deaths on bicycles nationwide each year.
"To minimize that, we do what we have to educate the public on the importance of helmets," Murrell said. "We also have kids with skateboards coming in, we promote that as well."
Children are required by law to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle; if not, parents can be ticketed $64.50.
"It's cheaper to get a $20 helmet than to pay a $64 fine," Murrell said.
The sheriff's office would much rather give away the helmets than have to ticket people, Murrell said.
"Our biggest problem is getting the kids to wear it," Murrell said.
Many children don't want to wear helmets, he says, because they are more concerned with appearances.
One father of three said that is not a problem in his home.
"I think they feel safer with them on," Antonio Hale said.
Hall stopped in with his children Saturday so they could get helmets. He said they wear their helmets most of the time.
"They have to wear them to ride their bikes to school anyway," Hale said.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.